Exergaming: A Research Study Critique

The Study

In critiquing Exergames in Secondary School Physical Education: Attitudes Amongst Swedish Students, a study by Peter Mozelius, Otto Elggren, Joakim Clysen, and Mats Wiklund, my interest was piqued. This particular document is only a conference paper, but it has the potential to become part of some ideas I would like to study further. Essentially, the idea is that exergames, or applications on mobile devices, could get students to participate in more physical activity than they currently do now (Mozelius, et al, 2014).

This concept stems from other studies in which students demonstrated improvement in core curricular areas like language skills and mathematics through gamification. The notion is that interest in an activity or topic creates further practice opportunities because students enjoy what they are doing. Students of this generation have grown their entire lives with some sort of digital device (iPads, iPhones, MP3 players, tablets, computers, etc.). The fact is that most students are interested in and/or motivated by anything remotely digital (Mozelius, et al, 2014).

The authors provide a clear abstract in terms of their study. The abstract states, “There are few cases where digital games are used for physical education, or exergaming. To explore [current and] former secondary school students’ attitudes towards the use of digital games in physical education, a study was conducted,” (Mozelius, et al, 2014).

Research Question

The problem faced in Sweden—and other locales around the world— is that there is noticeable increasing interest in gaming, and decreasing interest in physical activity. With this, the researchers came up with this question: “Would, in the opinion of students with varying interests in training and gaming, the use of exergames in school increase or decrease their motivation for physical activities and participation in physical education classes?” Essentially, the idea of gamifying traditional physical education classes in secondary school could increase the interest of participating in physical exercises.

Study Methods

The authors of this study were upfront with their methodology in this article. Under the “Method” section, the authors state that the study “was conducted with a mixed method research strategy involving common characteristics in such cases such as combining quantitative and qualitative data, using the mice of methods to support data triangulation, and applying a probe-driven pragmatic approach to gather data” (Mozelius, et al, 2014).

Their first step in proceeding with the study included  dividing 100 respondents into “nine different groups based on their interest in physical exercising and gaming.” Each group was analyzed individually based on their responses, and then compared to the other groups who answered the same survey question set.  The primary definition of data was focused on each individual’s interest in physical activity, where gaming was secondary. Respondents either answered “completely uninterested,” “uninterested,” “uncertain,” “interested,” or “very interested” in their response to the survey set. These interviews were conducted through online surveys, and then interviews came by way of web chat sessions with “two male and two female students to complement the survey data with in-depth discussion,” (Mozelius, 2014).

According to Mozelius, et al, once “data was analyzed based on the above input, the different attitudes… were further detailed by the conducted interviews where some respondents argued against the concept that various kinds of exergames could be a strong motivator for increasing physical activities.” However, when looking at the data, the interview content is not supported by the actual statistics. A majority of the respondents were genuinely interested in the idea of exergames (stationary and portable) within their physical education classes.

CASP Analysis

In the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) tool there are 10 questions “to help you make sense of randomized controlled trials,” (Better Value Healthcare, LLD, 2013). With this study in mind, I completed the analysis. My findings are detailed here.

The first question is “Are the results of the study valid?” The question is clear and focused, so I checked “yes.” I could not tell through the verbiage in the article if it was in fact a randomized controlled trial (RCT), so I checked, “can’t tell,” though it does appear to be if I were to make the assumption.

The second set of questions are under “Is it worth continuing?” The participants were appropriately allocated to intervention and control groups, yet this was for the sake of the students’ opinions, and therefore groups are divided out a bit differently. It is not apparent that blinding would be necessary for this study, but it is apparent that all researchers, particpants, etc. were “blind” throughout the course of this study of such a specific phenomenon.

Finally, all participants were accounted for at the end of the trial. There were 100 student responses, and 100 responses were totaled at the conclusion of the study. With this, all participants ad groups were given the same survey set, and identical interviews, as well. With 100 participants from a variety of locations and levels with secondary education, there would be nothing left to chance.

My conclusions for the results, and important outcomes are detailed below.

My Concluding Thoughts

I think this study is appropriate for the time within context. Around the world, especially in the United States, we see an overall lack of physical activity in our youth. They would rather play phone, tablet, computer, or video games. I see this in my own classroom and it comes up in conversation quite frequently. I think the research question is a strong one for an introduction sort of study. Its strength lies in the fact that there has not been much research in this area. The weakness plays to the fact that there is so much more to do, but that is not really a weakness at all.

The study was well-written and very coherent. According to the research question, the researchers found what they wanted to find: students’ opinions of exergaming in physical education classes. The study is very low in rigor, but I think this was done purposely in order to open a door into a new area of education and research.

The major strength in this study is that it can open many doors to future research: exergaming for students with disabilities, mobile device (Fitbit, Nike +, etc.) gaming while in physical education for points, student core-curricular performance while participating in a course including exergaming, etc. I think the study is a great start to a new branch in education and research.References

Better Value Healthcare, LLD. (2013). Critical appraisal skills programme (CASP). Retrieved from http://www.casp-uk.net/.

Mozelius, P., Elggren, O., Clysen, J., & Wiklund, M. (2014). Exergames in secondary school physical education: Attitudes amongst Swedish students. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267641694_Exergames_in_Secondary_School_Physical_Education_Attitudes_Amongst_Swedish_Students.